Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Exotic Birds For Britain

THERE are countries with a less fertile soil and a worse climate than ours, yet richer in bird life. Nevertheless, England is not poor; the species are not few in number, and some are extremely abundant. Unfortunately many of the finer kinds have been too much sought after; persecuted first for their beauty, then for their rarity, until now we are threatened with their total destruction. As these kinds become unobtainable, those which stand next in the order of beauty and rarity are persecuted in their turn; and in a country as densely populated as ours, where birds cannot hide themselves from human eyes, such persecution must eventually cause their extinction. Meanwhile the bird population does not decrease. Every place in nature, like every property in Chancery, has more than one claimant to it--sometimes the claimants are many--and so long as the dispute lasts all live out of the estate. For there are always two or more species subsisting on the same kind of food, possessing similar habits, and frequenting the same localities. It is consequently impossible for man to exterminate any one species without indirectly benefiting some other species, which attracts him in a less degree, or not at all. This is unfortunate, for as the bright kinds, or those we esteem most, diminish in numbers the less interesting kinds multiply, and we lose much of the pleasure which bird life is fitted to give us. When we visit woods, or other places to which birds chiefly resort, in districts uninhabited by man, or where he pays little or no attention to the feathered creatures, the variety of the bird life encountered affords a new and peculiar delight. There is a constant succession of new forms and new voices; in a single day as many species may be met with as one would find in England by searching diligently for a whole year.

And yet this may happen in a district possessing no more species than England boasts; and the actual number of individuals may be even less than with us. In sparrows, for instance, of the one common species, we are exceedingly rich; but in bird life generally, in variety of birds, especially in those of graceful forms and beautiful plumage, we have been growing poorer for the last fifty years, and have now come to so low a state that it becomes us to inquire whether it is not in our power to better ourselves. It is an old familiar truth--a truism--that it is easier to destroy than to restore or build up; nevertheless, some comfort is to be got from the reflection that in this matter we have up till now been working against Nature. She loves not to bring forth food where there are none to thrive on it; and when our unconsidered action had made these gaps, when, despising her gifts or abusing them, we had destroyed or driven out her finer kinds, she fell back on her lowlier kinds--her reserve of coarser, more generalized species--and gave them increase, and bestowed the vacant places which we had created on them. What she has done she will undo, or assist us in undoing; for we should be going back to her methods, and should have her with and not against us. Much might yet be done to restore the balance among our native species. Not by legislation, albeit all laws restraining the wholesale destruction of bird life are welcome. On this subject the Honourable Auberon Herbert has said, and his words are golden: "For myself, legislation or no legislation, I would turn to the friends of animals in this country, and say, 'If you wish that the friendship between man and animals should become a better and truer thing than it is at present, you must make it so by countless individual efforts, by making thousands of centres of personal influence.'"

The subject is a large one. In this paper the question of the introduction of exotic birds will be chiefly considered. Birds have been blown by the winds of chance over the whole globe, and have found rest for their feet. That a large number of species, suited to the conditions of this country, exist scattered about the world is not to be doubted, and by introducing a few of these we might accelerate the change so greatly to be desired. At present a very considerable amount of energy is spent in hunting down the small contingents of rare species that once inhabited our islands, and still resort annually to its shores, persistently endeavouring to re-establish their colonies. A less amount of labour and expense would serve to introduce a few foreign species each year, and the reward would be greater, and would not make us ashamed. We have generously given our own wild animals to other countries; and from time to time we receive cheering reports of an abundant increase in at least two of our exportations--to wit, the rabbit and the sparrow. We are surely entitled to some return. Dead animals, however rich their pelt or bright their plumage may be, are not a fair equivalent. Dead things are too much with us. London has become a mart for this kind of merchandise for the whole of Europe, and the traffic is not without a reflex effect on us; for life in the inferior animals has come or is coming to be merely a thing to be lightly taken by human hands, in order that its dropped garment may be sold for filthy lucre. There are warehouses in this city where it is possible for a person to walk ankle-deep--literally to wade--in bright-plumaged bird-skins, and see them piled shoulder-high on either side of him--a sight to make the angels weep. Not the angel called woman. It is not that she is naturally more cruel than man; bleeding wounds and suffering in all its forms, even the sigh of a burdened heart, appeal to her quick sympathies, and draw the ready tears; but her imagination helps her less. The appeal must in most cases be direct and through the medium of her senses, else it is not seen and not heard. If she loves the ornament of a gay-winged bird, and is able to wear it with a light heart, it is because it calls up no mournful image to her mind; no little tragedy enacted in some far-off wilderness, of the swift child of the air fallen and bleeding out its bright life, and its callow nestlings, orphaned of the breast that warmed them, dying of hunger in the tree. We know, at all events, that out of a female population of many millions in this country, so far only ten women, possibly fifteen, have been found to raise their voices--raised so often and so loudly on other questions--to protest against the barbarous and abhorrent fashion of wearing slain birds as ornaments. The degrading business of supplying the demand for this kind of feminine adornment must doubtless continue to flourish in our midst, commerce not being compatible with morality, but the material comes from other lands, unblessed as yet with Wild Bird Protection Acts, and "individual efforts, and thousands of centres of personal influence"; it comes mainly from the tropics, where men have brutish minds and birds a brilliant plumage. This trade, therefore, does not greatly affect the question of our native bird life, and the consideration of the means, which may be within our reach, of making it more to us than it now is. Some species from warm and even hot climates have been found to thrive well in England, breeding in the open air; as, for instance, the black and the black-necked swans, the Egyptian goose, the mandarin and summer ducks, and others too numerous to mention. But these birds are semi-domestic, and are usually kept in enclosures, and that they can stand the climate and propagate when thus protected from competition is not strange; for we know that several of our hardy domestic birds--the fowl, pea-fowl, Guinea-fowl, and Muscovy duck--are tropical in their origin. Furthermore, they are all comparatively large, and if they ever become feral in England, it will not be for many years to come.

That these large kinds thrive so well with us is an encouraging fact; but the question that concerns us at present is the feasibility of importing birds of the grove, chiefly of the passerine order, and sending them forth to give a greater variety and richness to our bird life. To go with such an object to tropical countries would only be to court failure. Nature's highest types, surpassing all others in exquisite beauty of form, brilliant colouring, and perfect melody, can never be known to our woods and groves. These rarest avian gems may not be removed from their setting, and to those who desire to know them in their unimaginable lustre, it will always be necessary to cross oceans and penetrate into remote wildernesses. We must go rather to regions where the conditions of life are hard, where winters are long and often severe, where Nature is not generous in the matter of food, and the mouths are many, and the competition great. Nor even from such regions could we take any strictly migratory species with any prospect of success. Still, limiting ourselves to the resident, and consequently to the hardiest kinds, and to those possessing only a partial migration, it is surprising to find how many there are to choose from, how many are charming melodists, and how many have the bright tints in which our native species are so sadly lacking. The field from which the supply can be drawn is very extensive, and includes the continent of Europe, the countries of North Asia, a large portion of North America and Antarctic America, or South Chili and Patagonia. It would not be going too far to say that for every English species, inhabiting the garden, wood, field, stream, or waste, at least half a dozen resident species, with similar habits, might be obtained from the countries mentioned which would be superior to our own in melody (the nightingale and lark excepted), bright plumage, grace of form, or some other attractive quality. The question then arises; What reason is there for believing that these exotics, imported necessarily in small numbers, would succeed in winning a footing in our country, and become a permanent addition to its avifauna? For it has been admitted that our species are not few, in spite of the losses that have been suffered, and that the bird population does not diminish, however much its character may have altered and deteriorated from the aesthetic point of view, and probably also from the utilitarian. There are no vacant places. Thus, the streams are fished by herons, grebes, and kingfishers, while the rushy margins are worked by coots and gallinules, and, above the surface, reed and sedge-warblers, with other kinds, inhabit the reed-beds. The decaying forest tree is the province of the woodpecker, of which there are three kinds; and the trunks and branches of all trees, healthy or decaying, are quartered by the small creeper, that leaves no crevice unexplored in its search for minute insects and their eggs. He is assisted by the nuthatch; and in summer the wryneck comes (if he still lives), and deftly picks up the little active ants that are always wildly careering over the boles. The foliage is gleaned by warblers and others; and not even the highest terminal twigs are left unexamined by tits and their fellow-seekers after little things. Thrushes seek for worms in moist grounds about the woods; starlings and rooks go to the pasture lands; the lark and his relations keep to the cultivated fields; and there also dwells the larger partridge. Waste and stony grounds are occupied by the chats, and even on the barren mountain summits the ptarmigan gets his living. Wagtails run on the clean margins of streams; and littoral birds of many kinds are in possession of the entire sea-coast. Thus, the whole ground appears to be already sufficiently occupied, the habitats of distinct species overlapping each other like the scales on a fish. And when we have enumerated all these, we find that scores of others have been left out. The important fly-catcher; the wren, Nature's diligent little housekeeper, that leaves no dusty corner uncleaned; and the pigeons, that have a purely vegetable diet. The woods and thickets are also ranged by jays, cuckoos, owls, hawks, magpies, butcher-birds--Nature's gamekeepers, with a licence to kill, which, after the manner of game-keepers, they exercise somewhat indiscriminately. Above the earth, the air is peopled by swifts and swallows in the daytime, and by goatsuckers at night. And, as if all these were not enough, the finches are found scattered everywhere, from the most secluded spot in nature to the noisy public thoroughfare, and are eaters of most things, from flinty seed to softest caterpillar. This being the state of things, one might imagine that experience and observation are scarcely needed to prove to us that the exotic, strange to the conditions, and where its finest instincts would perhaps be at fault, would have no chance of surviving. Nevertheless, odd as it may seem, the small stock of facts bearing on the subject which we possess point to a contrary conclusion. It might have been assumed, for instance, that the red-legged partridge would never have established itself with us, where the ground was already fully occupied by a native species, which possessed the additional advantage of a more perfect protective colouring. Yet, in spite of being thus handicapped, the stranger has conquered a place, and has spread throughout the greater part of England. Even more remarkable is the case of the pheasant, with its rich plumage, a native of a hot region; yet our cold, wet climate and its unmodified bright colours have not been fatal to it, and practically it is one of our wild birds. The large capercailzie has also been successfully introduced from Norway. Small birds would probably become naturalized much more readily than large ones; they are volatile, and can more quickly find suitable feeding-ground, and safe roosting and nesting places; their food is also more abundant and easily found; their small size, which renders them inconspicuous, gives them safety; and, finally, they are very much more adaptive than large birds.

It is not at all probable that the red-legged partridge will ever drive out our own bird, a contingency which some have feared. That would be a misfortune, for we do not wish to change one bird for another, or to lose any species we now possess, but to have a greater variety. We are better off with two partridges than we were with one, even if the invader does not afford such good sport nor such delicate eating. They exist side by side, and compete with each other; but such competition is not necessarily destructive to either. On the contrary, it acts and re-acts healthily and to the improvement of both. It is a fact that in small islands, very far removed from the mainland, where the animals have been exempt from all foreign competition--that is, from the competition of casual colonists--when it does come it proves, in many cases, fatal to them. Fortunately, this country's large size and nearness to the mainland has prevented any such fatal crystallization of its organisms as we see in islands like St. Helena. That any English species would be exterminated by foreign competition is extremely unlikely; whether we introduce exotic birds or not, the only losses we shall have to deplore in the future will, like those of the past, be directly due to our own insensate action in slaying every rare and beautiful thing with powder and shot. From the introduction of exotic species nothing is to be feared, but much to be hoped.

There is another point which should not be overlooked. It has after all become a mere fiction to say that all places are occupied. Nature's nice order has been destroyed, and her kingdom thrown into the utmost confusion; our action tends to maintain the disorderly condition, while she is perpetually working against us to re-establish order. When she multiplies some common, little-regarded species to occupy a space left vacant by an artificially exterminated kind, the species called in as a mere stop-gap, as it were, is one not specially adapted in structure and instincts to a particular mode of life, and consequently cannot fully and effectually occupy the ground into which it has been permitted to enter. To speak in metaphor, it enters merely as a caretaker or ignorant and improvident steward in the absence of the rightful owner. Again, some of our ornamental species, which are fast diminishing, are fitted from their peculiar structure and life habits to occupy places in nature which no other kinds, however plastic they may be, can even partially fill. The wryneck and the woodpecker may be mentioned; and a still better instance is afforded by the small, gem-like kingfisher--the only British bird which can properly be described as gem-like. When the goldfinch goes--and we know that he is going rapidly--other coarser fringilline birds, without the melody, brightness, and charm of the goldfinch--sparrow and bunting--come in, and in some rough fashion supply its place; but when the kingfisher disappears an important place is left absolutely vacant, for in this case there is no coarser bird of homely plumage with the fishing instinct to seize upon it. Here, then, is an excellent opportunity for an experiment. In the temperate regions of the earth there are many fine kingfishers to select from; some are resident in countries colder than England, and are consequently very hardy; and in some cases the rivers and streams they frequent are exceedingly poor in fish. Some of them are very beautiful, and they vary in size from birds no larger than a sparrow to others as large as a pigeon.


'. . . the streams are fished by herons.'

Anglers might raise the cry that they require all the finny inhabitants of our waters for their own sport. It is scarcely necessary to go as deeply into the subject as mathematical-minded Mudie did to show that Nature's lavishness in the production of life would make such a contention unreasonable. He demonstrated that if all the fishes hatched were to live their full term, in twenty-four years their production power would convert into fish (two hundred to the solid foot) as much matter as there is contained in the whole solar system--sun, planets, and satellites! An "abundantly startling" result, as he says. To be well within the mark, ninety-nine out of every hundred fishes hatched must somehow perish during that stage when they are nothing but suitable morsels for the kingfisher, to be swallowed entire; and a portion of all this wasted food might very well go to sustain a few species, which would be beautiful ornaments of the waterside, and a perpetual delight to all lovers of rural nature, including anglers. It may be remarked in passing, that the waste of food, in the present disorganized state of nature, is not only in our streams.

The introduction of one or more of these lovely foreign kingfishers would not certainly have the effect of hastening the decline of our native species; but indirectly it might bring about a contrary result--a subject to be touched on at the end of this paper. Practical naturalists may say that kingfishers would be far more difficult to procure than other birds, and that it would be almost impossible to convey them to England. That is a question it would be premature to discuss now; but if the attempt should ever be made, the difficulties would not perhaps be found insuperable. In all countries one hears of certain species of birds that they invariably die in captivity; but when the matter is closely looked into, one usually finds that improper treatment and not loss of liberty is the cause of death. Unquestionably it would be much more difficult to keep a kingfisher alive and healthy during a long sea-voyage than a common seed-eating bird; but the same may be said of woodpeckers, cuckoos, warblers, and, in fact, of any species that subsists in a state of nature on a particular kind of animal food. Still, when we find that even the excessively volatile humming-bird, which subsists on the minutest insects and the nectar of flowers, and seems to require unlimited space for the exercise of its energies, can be successfully kept confined for long periods and conveyed to distant countries, one would imagine that it would be hard to set a limit to what might be done in this direction. We do not want hard-billed birds only. We require, in the first place, variety; and, secondly, that every species introduced, when not of type unlike any native kind, as in the case of the pheasant, shall be superior in beauty, melody, or some other quality, to its British representative, or to the species which comes nearest to it in structure and habits. Thus, suppose that the introduction of a pigeon should be desired. We know that in all temperate regions, these birds vary as little in colour and markings as they do in form; but in the vocal powers of different species there is great diversity; and the main objects would therefore be to secure a bird which would be an improvement in this respect on the native kinds. There are doves belonging to the same genus as stock-dove and wood-pigeon, that have exceedingly good voices, in which the peculiar mournful dove-melody has reached its highest perfection--weird and passionate strains, surging and ebbing, and startling the hearer with their mysterious resemblance to human tones. Or a Zenaida might be preferred for its tender lament, so wild and exquisitely modulated, like sobs etherealized and set to music, and passing away in sigh-like sounds that seem to mimic the aerial voices of the wind.

When considering the character of our bird population with a view to its improvement, one cannot but think much, and with a feeling almost of dismay, of the excessive abundance of the sparrow. A systematic persecution of this bird would probably only serve to make matters worse, since its continued increase is not the cause but an effect of a corresponding decrease in other more useful and attractive species; and if Nature is to have her way at all there must be birds; and besides, no bird-lover has any wish at see such a thing attempted. The sparrow has his good points, if we are to judge him as we find him, without allowing what the Australians and Americans say of him to prejudice our minds. Possibly in those distant countries he may be altogether bad, resembling, in this respect, some of the emigrants of our species, who, when they go abroad, leave their whole stock of morality at home. Even with us Miss Ormerod is exceedingly bitter against him, and desires nothing less than his complete extirpation; but it is possible that this lady's zeal may not be according to knowledge, that she may not know a sparrow quite so well as she knows a fly. At all events, the ornithologist finds it hard to believe that so bad an insect-catcher is really causing the extinction of any exclusively insectivorous species. On her own very high authority we know that the insect supply is not diminishing, that the injurious kinds alone are able to inflict an annual loss equal to £10,000,000 on the British farmer. To put aside this controversial matter, the sparrow with all his faults is a pleasant merry little fellow; in many towns he is the sole representative of wild bird life, and is therefore a great deal to us--especially in the metropolis, in which he most abounds, and where at every quiet interval his blithe chirruping comes to us like a sound of subdued and happy laughter. In London itself this merriment of Nature never irritates; it is so much finer and more aerial in character than the gross jarring noises of the street, that it is a relief to listen to it, and it is like melody. In the quiet suburbs it sounds much louder and without intermission. And going further afield, in woods, gardens, hedges, hamlets, towns--everywhere there is the same running, rippling sound of the omnipresent sparrow, and it becomes monotonous at last. We have too much of the sparrow. But we are to blame for that. He is the unskilled worker that Nature has called in to do the work of skilled hands, which we have foolishly turned away. He is willing enough to take it all on himself; his energy is great; he bungles away without ceasing; and being one of a joyous temperament, he whistles and sings in his tuneless fashion at his work, until, like the grasshopper of Ecclesiastes, he becomes a burden. For how tiring are the sight and sound of grasshoppers when one journeys many miles and sees them incessantly rising like a sounding cloud before his horse, and hears their shrill notes all day from the wayside! Yet how pleasant to listen to their minstrelsy in the green summer foliage, where they are not too abundant! We can have too much of anything, however charming it may be in itself. Those who live where scores of humming-birds are perpetually dancing about the garden flowers find that the eye grows weary of seeing the daintiest forms and brightest colours and liveliest motions that birds exhibit. We are told that Edward the Confessor grew so sick of the incessant singing of nightingales in the forest of Havering-at-Bower that he prayed to Heaven to silence their music; whereupon the birds promptly took their departure, and returned no more to that forest until after the king's death. The sparrow is not so sensitive as the legendary nightingales, and is not to be got rid of in this easy manner. He is amenable only to a rougher kind of persuasion; and it would be impossible to devise a more effectual method of lessening his predominance than that which Nature teaches--namely to subject him to the competition of other and better species. He is well equipped for the struggle--hardy, pugnacious, numerous, and in possession. He would not be in possession and so predominant if he had not these qualities, and great pliability of instinct and readiness to seize on vacant places. Nevertheless, even with the sturdy sparrow a very small thing might turn the scale, particularly if we were standing by and putting a little artificial pressure on one side of the balance; for it must be borne in mind that the very extent and diversity of the ground he occupies is a proof that he does not occupy it effectually, and that his position is not too strong to be shaken. It is not probable that our action in assisting one side against the other would go far in its results; still, a little might be done. There are gardens and grounds in the suburbs of London where sparrows are not abundant, and are shyer than the birds of other species, and this result has been brought about by means of a little judicious persecution. Shooting is a bad plan, even with an air-gun; its effects are seen by all the birds, for they see more from their green hiding-places than we imagine, and it creates a general alarm among them. Those who wish to give the other birds a chance will only defeat their own object by shooting the sparrows. A much better plan for those who are able to practise it prudently is to take their nests, which are more exposed to sight than those of other birds; but they should be taken after the full complement of eggs have been laid, and only at night, so that other birds shall not witness the robbery and fear for their own treasures. Mr. Henry George, in that book of his which has been the delight of so many millions of rational souls, advocates the destruction of all sharks and other large rapacious fishes, after which, he says, the ocean can be stocked with salmon, which would secure an unlimited supply of good wholesome food for the human race. No such high-handed measures are advocated here with regard to the sparrow. Knowledge of nature makes us conservative. It is so very easy to say, "Kill the sparrow, or shark, or magpie, or whatever it is, and then everything will be right." But there are more things in nature than are dreamt of in the philosophy of the class of reformers represented by the gamekeeper, and the gamekeeper's master, and Miss Ormerod, and Mr. Henry George. Let him by all means kill the sharks, but he will not conquer Nature in that way: she will make more sharks out of something else--possibly out of the very salmon on which he proposes to regale his hungry disciples. To go into details is not the present writer's purpose; and to finish with this part of the subject, it is sufficient to add that in the very wide and varied field occupied by the sparrow, in that rough, ineffectual manner possible to a species having no special and highly perfected feeding instincts, there is room for the introduction of scores of competitors, every one of which should be better adapted than the sparrow to find a subsistence at that point or that particular part of the field where the two would come into rivalry; and every species introduced should also possess some quality which would make it, from the aesthetic point of view, a valuable addition to our bird life. This would be no war of violence, and no contravention of Nature's ordinances, but, on the contrary, a return to her safe, healthy, and far-reaching methods.

There is one objection some may make to the scheme suggested here which must be noticed. It may be said that even if exotic species able to thrive in our country were introduced there would be no result; for these strangers to our groves would all eventually meet with the same fate as our rarer species and casual visitors--that is to say, they would be shot. There is no doubt that the amateur naturalist has been a curse to this country for the last half century, that it is owing to the "cupidity of the cabinet" as old Robert Mudie has it--that many of our finer species are exceedingly rare, while others are disappearing altogether. But it is surely not too soon to look for a change for the better in this direction. Half a century ago, when the few remaining great bustards in this country were being done to death, it was suddenly remembered by naturalists that in their eagerness to possess examples of the bird (in the skin) they had neglected to make themselves acquainted with its customs when alive. Its habits were hardly better known than those of the dodo and solitaire. The reflection came too late, in so far as the habits of the bird in this country are concerned; but unhappily the lesson was not then taken to heart, and other fine species have since gone the way of the great bustard. But now that we have so clearly seen the disastrous effects of this method of "studying ornithology," which is not in harmony with our humane civilization, it is to be hoped that a better method will be adopted--that "finer way" which Thoreau found and put aside his fowling-piece to practise. There can be no doubt that the desire for such an improvement is now becoming very general, that a kindlier feeling for animal, and especially bird life is growing up among us, and there are signs that it is even beginning to have some appreciable effect. The fashion of wearing birds is regarded by most men with pain and reprobation; and it is possible that before long it will be thought that there is not much difference between the action of the woman who buys tanagers and humming-birds to adorn her person, and that of the man who kills the bittern, hoopoe, waxwing, golden oriole, and Dartford-warbler to enrich his private collection.

A few words on the latest attempt which has been made to naturalize an exotic bird in England will not seem out of place here. About eight years ago a gentleman in Essex introduced the rufous tinamou--a handsome game bird, nearly as large as a fowl--into his estate. Up till the present time, or till quite recently these birds have bred every year, and at one time they had increased considerably and scattered about the neighbourhood. When it began to increase, the neighbouring proprietors and sportsmen generally were asked not to shoot it, but to give it a chance, and there is reason to believe that they have helped to protect it, and have taken a great interest in the experiment. Whatever the ultimate result may be, the partial success attained during these few years is decidedly encouraging, and that for more reasons than one. In the first place, the bird was badly chosen for such an experiment. It belongs to the pampas of La Plata, to which it is restricted, and where it enjoys a dry, bright climate, and lives concealed in the tall close-growing indigenous grasses. The conditions of its habitat are therefore widely different from those of Essex, or of any part of England; and, besides, it has a peculiar organisation, for it happens to be one of those animals of ancient types of which a few species still survive in South America. That so unpromising a subject as this large archaic tinamou should be able to maintain its existence in this country, even for a very few years, encourages one to believe that with better-chosen species, more highly organized, and with more pliant habits, such as the hazel hen of Europe for a game bird, success would be almost certain.

Another circumstance connected with the attempted introduction of this unsuitable bird, even of more promise than the mere fact of the partial success achieved, is the greatest interest the experiment has excited, not only among naturalists throughout the country, but also among landlords and sportsmen down in Essex, where the bird was not regarded merely as fair game to be bagged, or as a curiosity to be shot for the collector's cabinet, but was allowed to fight its own fight without counting man among its enemies. And it is to be expected that the same self-restraint and spirit of fairness and intelligent desire to see a favourable result would be shown everywhere if exotic species were to be largely introduced, and breeding centres established in suitable places throughout the country. When it once became known that individuals were doing this thing, giving their time and best efforts and at considerable expense not for their own selfish gratification, but for the general good, and to make the country more delightful to all lovers of rural sights and sounds, there would be no opposition, but on the contrary every assistance, since all would wish success to such an enterprise. Even the most enthusiastic collector would refrain from lifting a weapon against the new feathered guests from distant lands; and if by any chance an example of one should get into his hands he would be ashamed to exhibit it.

The addition of new beautiful species to our avifauna would probably not be the only, nor even the principal benefit we should derive from the carrying out of the scheme here suggested. The indirect effect of the knowledge all would possess that such an experiment was being conducted, and that its chief object was to repair the damage that has been done, would be wholly beneficial since it would enhance the value in our eyes of our remaining native rare and beautiful species. A large number of our finer birds are annually shot by those who know that they are doing a great wrong--that if their transgression is not punishable by law it is really not less grave than that of the person who maliciously barks a shade tree in a park or public garden--but who excuse their action by saying that such birds must eventually get shot, and that those who first see them might as well have the benefit. The presence of even a small number of exotic species in our woods and groves would no doubt give rise to a better condition of things; it would attract public attention to the subject; for the birds that delight us with their beauty and melody should be for the public, and not for the few barbarians engaged in exterminating them; and the "collector" would find it best to abandon his evil practices when it once began to be generally asked, if we can spare the rare, lovely birds brought hither at great expense from China or Patagonia, can we not also spare our own kingfisher, and the golden oriole, and the hoopoe, that comes to us annually from Africa to breed, but is not permitted to breed, and many other equally beautiful and interesting species?

W. H. Hudson

Sorry, no summary available yet.